The Eden Valley in Cumbria has some lovely hidden treasures tucked away in the folds of its landscape and recently we have been fortunate to visit some of them. Christ’s Church in Ivegill is one such. Here, in the nicely tree-shaded churchyard with the gentle sound of the beck in the background we admired Brian Cowper’s ‘Wings Of Peace’ sculptural sundial.
Carved in marble, primarily white with some light smoky grey clouds, the sculpture is topped with a silvery reflecting ball gracefully flanked by the spread of dove’s wings.
Not merely decorative, the Wings Of Peace sculpture is a carefully calibrated instrument – a functional chronometer when the sun shines that marks the passing of time as the shadow sweeps across the wings, the hours being the gaps in the feathers.
The Sculptor, Brian Cowper explained to us that you can’t just buy an off-the-peg sundial from anywhere and expect it to work well by aligning the shadow to the correct time whenever and where-ever you choose to set it down. Very soon the shadow will cease to correspond with the markings for the hours.
In order to work properly as a time-keeper, calculations need to be made for the angle of sunlight at the location of any particular site, and the design of the dial and blade (gnomon) would need to correspond to these, and even then the observer will need to add (and occasionally subtract minutes) as the angle of the sun wanders throughout the year. Brian showed us a graph plotted with a shape similar to a figure of 8 or infinity symbol that shows the recommended time correction day-by-day for this sundial. This creation is quite an amalgamation of art and science.
With sundials you can see the relationship between location and sun time. It is a funny thought that before the coming of the railways, clock time was set locally and would differ considerably from place to place leading to people sometimes apparently arriving at destinations ‘before’ they had set-off to get there. With fast international Jet travel between time zones you can experience a similar paradox.
Readers may be interested to know that this year marks the 25th Anniversary of The British Sundial Society.